AVATAR: Creation, shortsighted pt 2
For the first part on AVATAR:
But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.
– Job 12:7-10
Pantheism is the view that Nature and God are identical, or that the Universe is the only thing deserving reverence. The word derives from the Ancient Greek meaning “All” and “God” – literally “All is God.” One could easily leave the theater sharing James Cameron’s awe of creation and take on the limiting aspects of this worldview. Also, as the Na’vi worship a mother goddess, it’s not incomprehensible that this type of worship could emerge in the film or similarly in the course of our lives outside the cinema. Mother Nature (or “Mother Earth”) is a common personification of nature that focuses on the life-giving and nurturing features of nature by embodying it in the form of the mother. The question is, are we the product of a single parent home? Where is Father?
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:20
Make no mistake, “mother earth” is not a biblical concept, and the creation itself has no “uni-mind”. However, if the earth is a place that seems very imminent, beautiful, and nourishing, a home where we feel cared for… should it not provoke questions as to the Provider and Sustainer of that home?
In fact, Sigourney Weaver’s character, Grace, suggests that the interconnectedness of Pandora is unique to the planet, like an alien fiber-optic network… the like of which we have NOTHING on our planet. At the end of the day it’s a far flung fantasy convention localized to that planet with no relation to earth. Jake’s comment to Eywa in the film – that humans “killed their mother” is shortsighted. We may have despoiled and ruined a beautiful place made with glorious hands and entrusted to our stewardship (which is abominable, without question) but the sci-fi trope ends there. Moreover, as Jake’s plea persuades this “goddess”, Eywa’s reaction demonstrates see she was not all-seeing, all-knowing, all-wise, or even ultimate authority. At best, Eywa in “Avatar” might be a singular, planet-wide alien uni-mind, which begs the question… if the planet is such an elegant and connected creation, who created Eywa?
What can be seen on earth points to neither the total absence nor the obvious presence of divinity, but to the presence of a hidden God. Everything bears this mark. – Blaise Pascal
Avatar’s Edenic vision makes viewers feel the weight of what we lost because of sin. Pandora’s breathtaking terrain and inhabitants can make us reinvigorated with the wonder of creation. Breaking through the lens and into the eye of James Cameron, the exhaustive work by this man and his team can make us realize another truth; if Pandora’s 3D landscape is the craft of a very skilled and innovative designer, the earth that Cameron has fallen in love with the last few decades may also have had an incredible, inspired Creator. As Avatar’s director labored for twelve years to make his creation a reality, caring about every rock, leaf, and life, imagine the work of the Creator who fashioned the universe all around us. Jesus certainly had a godly understanding of his Father, and His amazing care of creation and mankind:
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? …consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. – Matthew 6:26-29
(For those enthralled by Avatar’s world visuals, check out the Planet Earth series and in HD if possible.)
Do we need to repent of a shortsighted view of Creator? Are we still worshipping self, or created things, instead of God? Or… do we simply need to repent of a callous view of creation? A mature Christian’s awe of creation will outshine the most passionate pagan praise.
Christian author C.S. Lewis not only had a profound appreciation for creation, but also wrote a book that gave me more food for thought related to Avatar…
I am reminded of Tony Campolo’s book – “How to protect the earth without worshipping nature” – it is such a subtle balance. We are stewards of this wonderful creation and it is given to us to enjoy, work, protect and pass on to our children and to inspire worship of our wonderful Creator, who made it so well. But is a creation, not the creator and there is the danger of elevating what he has made so that protecting it becomes a god in itself. Given how much we struggle with this and how prominent environmental/ecological issues have become lately (Inconvenient Truth, 11th Hour et al), maybe Campolo’s book needs a re-issue?